Saturday, May 4, 2013


The New Palm Court Orchestra.                   

Artistic Director: Gemma Turvey

The Great Hall, University House, Canberra

Saturday 27th April.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

This was the first visit to Canberra of The New Palm Court Orchestra, an ensemble of nine musicians, led by Melbourne composer/pianist Gemma Turvey.  Apart from one short piano solo, “Talk to Me of Mendocino” written by Kate McGarrigle, and played by Turvey, the other nine pieces which made up the program were all composed by Turvey. Six of them appear on her latest CD also entitled “Landscapes for a Mind’s Eye”.

Gemma Turvey has a gift for writing pretty melodies that are abstract, moody and sensuous, with titles such as “Undiscovered”, “Standing” and “Ganges”.  The piano is featured prominently, with overlays of seductive textures and harmonies.  Most of the items were introduced by the composer, who gave a brief explanation of the inspiration behind each piece, such as leafy shadows on a bedroom wall, or her response to the city of New York.

Borrowing from the jazz tradition, each of the eight accomplished musicians who made up the New Palm Court Orchestra, appeared to have the opportunity to improvise within the set theme, with both the drummer, Sam Bates, and the double bassist, Frank Di Sario providing creative background rhythms under the mainly legato chords of the strings, clarinet and French horn.

The highlight of the evening occurred in the second half of the program with the sad, evocative “Ha Ben”, which featured superb violin playing by Luke Moller, underpinned by the haunting clarinet of Karen Heath.

Perhaps the inclusion of at least one up-tempo composition would have provided a welcome variation in mood, but otherwise this was a beautiful concert, and a superb showcase of the talent and initiative of this emerging and exciting young composer and her haunting, reflective compositions.

                  This review appears in the May 5 - 8 print edition of CITY NEWS

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